K is for Killer Page 55


I sorted through the file while I let my mind wander. Aside from the random or the serial killer, the perpetrator of a homicide has to have a reason, some concrete motive for wanting the victim dead. In the case of Lorna Kepler, I was still uncertain what the reason was. Financial gain was a possibility. She'd had assets in her estate. I made a note to myself to check with Janice on that score. Given the assumption that Lorna had no living issue, Janice and Mace would be her legal heirs if she died intestate. It was hard to picture either one of them guilty of murder. For one thing, if it were Janice, she'd have to be a fool to turn around and bring me into it. Mace was a question mark. He certainly hadn't conformed to my notion of a grieving parent. Her sisters were another possibility, though neither struck me as sufficiently smart or sufficiently energetic.

I picked up the phone and dialed Frankie's Coffee Shop. This time Janice answered. I could hear jukebox music in the background, but not much else.

"Hi, Janice. This is Kinsey, up in San Francisco."

"Well, Kinsey. How are you? I'm always surprised to hear from you at such an hour. Did you find the fellow she was working for?"

"I talked to him this evening, and I also tracked down one of the other actors in the film. I haven't made up my mind about either one of them. In the meantime, something else has come up. I'm wondering if I could take a look at Lorna's financial records."

"I suppose so. Can you say why, or is that classified?"

"Nothing's classified between us. You're paying for my services. I'm trying to pin down a motive. Money's an obvious possibility."

"I guess that's true, but it's hard to see how it could apply in this case. None of us had any idea she had money until after she died and we went through her files. I'm still in shock. It was unbelievable, given my perception. I was forever slipping her a twenty just to make sure she'd eat right. And there she was with all those stocks and bonds and savings accounts. She must have had six. You'd think with that kind of money, she'd have lived a little better."

I wanted to tell her the money was part of Lorna's pension fund, but it seemed unkind somehow since she hadn't lived long enough to use it. "Did she have a will?"

"Well, yes. Just one sheet of paper that she'd written out herself. She left everything to Mace and me." '

"I'd like to see that, if you don't object."

"You can see anything you want. When I get home from work, I'll find the box of Lorna's personal effects and leave it on Berlyn's desk. You can stop by when you get back and pick it up from her."

"I'd appreciate that. I want to talk to the two of them, in any event."

"Oh, shoot, and that reminds me. Have you talked to that woman Lorna used to house-sit for?"

"Once."

"Well, I wonder if you'd do me a favor. Last time I went through Lorna's things, I came across a set of house keys I'm sure belong to her. I've been trying to return them and haven't had a minute to take care of it."

"You want me to drop them off?"

"If you would. I feel like I should do it myself, but I just don't have time. And I'd appreciate it if you'd make sure I get everything back when you finish going through it. There's some dividend and interest statements I'm going to need to pass along to the probate attorney when he files her income taxes."

"Has the estate been settled yet?"

"It's still in the works. What I'm giving you is copies, but I'd still like to have them back."

"No problem. I can probably drop it all off to you day after tomorrow."

"That'd be fine." I could hear the swell of chatter in the background. She said, "Uh-oh. I got to go."

"See you tomorrow," I said, and hung up.

I looked around at the room, which was serviceable but glum. The mattress was as dense as mud, while the pillows were foam rubber and threatened serious neck damage. I'd made reservations for a noon flight out of San Francisco. It was now almost three a.m. I wasn't ready to sleep. If I junked my return ticket, I could drive the rental car back and drop it at the airport in Santa Teresa, where my VW was sitting in the long-term parking lot. The trip would take roughly six hours, and if I could manage to avoid dozing off at the wheel, I'd be back around nine.

I suddenly found myself energized by the notion of heading home. I swung my feet over the side of the bed, found my Reeboks, pulled them on, and left the laces dangling. I went into the bathroom, gathered up my toiletries, and shoved everything in the duffel. It took me longer to wake the night manager than it took me to check out. By 3:22 I was heading south on the 101.

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